The human body is an amazing self-regulating machine. The strategy of administering small doses of histamine is meant to balance out the parts of the immune system that stimulates allergies or auto-immunity, and the parts of the immune system that keep the allergic or autoimmune reactions under control.
The body's self-regulation is termed "auto-regulation" – a basic principle taught in every medical school and in every general course in biochemistry, physiology, and genetics on how the body regulates itself.
Interest in the therapeutic use of histamine was prompted by the 1937 observation that infusions of intravenous histamine provoked the onset of headaches. This led to the use of chronic intravenous or subcutaneous histamine as a type of desensitization therapy, predominately for cluster headaches, sudden hearing loss, and Meniere's Syndrome. No controlled clinical trials appear to back this theory up, however. In general this therapy has become discredited over time.
The year 2000 evidence-based guidelines of the American Academy of Neurology for the treatment of headache does not mention histamine therapy as a treatment of headache.
Histamine is an important protein involved in many allergic reactions. Histamine is a signaller normally found throughout the body. It is involved in the regulation of allergies, as well as a signaller for T-cell regulation. T-cells are immune cells that are responsible for immune memory (e.g. immunity from chicken-pox). T-cells are also responsible in part for auto-immune conditions (when the immune system attacks healthy tissue in the body).
Allergies are caused by an immune response to a normally innocuous substance (e.g. pollen or dust) that comes in contact with lymphocytes specific for that substance (antigens). In many cases, the lymphocyte triggered to respond is a mast cell. For this response to occur, a free-floating IgE (an immunoglobulin associated with allergic response) molecule specific to the antigen must first be attached to cell surface receptors on mast cells. Antigen binding to the mast cell-attached IgE then triggers the mast cell to respond. This response often includes the release of histamine.
By giving histamine to the body in small doses, the body responds by slowing down the overproduction of histamine. This concept is similar to the breaker switch in a fuse box: When there is an excess of electricity or an electrical hazard in a home, the breaker switches off the power in the house. In the case of histamine, the body's natural production is switched off. The use of histamine, for example, stopped skin swelling and inflammation in ragweed-sensitive people when they were exposed to ragweed.
The intravenous or subcutaneous administration of histamine is proposed as a treatment for headaches, sudden hearing loss, and Meniere's syndrome.
Dr. George Gillson, M.D., Ph.D., reports that after six weeks of treatment with histamine in 19 individuals with multiple sclerosis
The nurse responsible for the revival of the use of histamine, Elaine DeLack, MS, RN, has collected verbal reports from over 200 individuals diagnosed with multiple sclerosis who have used histamine: 72% report at least one significant improvement in symptoms, and some many more.
Histamine diphosphate therapy at 2.75mg in 500cc of 5% dextrose solution given in a slow intravenous infusion can relieve an episode of severe dizziness and nausea due to Meniere's disease. Periodic infusions can lengthen the interval between these episodes. At the University of Maryland Medical System's Looper Clinic, this therapy is performed on 4 to 6 patients each week. ["IV Histamine for Meniere's", Guyther, J. Roy, M.D., Cortlandt Forum, May 1994;78 75-8]
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